Gibbs says in-person classes dependent on community action, reports 7 new COVID cases

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Local health officials say they are in regular contact with area schools, saying the feasibility of returning to in-person instruction is dependent on the communities actions in the coming months.

During a Facebook live update, Riley County Health Department Director Julie Gibbs reported 7 new positive COVID-19 tests and 4 recoveries — a net increase of 3 cases — since Tuesday, July 14th.

That brings the county to 136 active cases, 232 reported recoveries and 3 deaths out of 371 total confirmed cases. No positive patients are accounted for in Manhattan’s Ascension Via Christi Hospital, though 4 persons with symptoms are at the facility awaiting test results. The percent of positive individuals in the 18 to 24 age range has halted steady at just over 59 percent for at least a week.

Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Andrew Adams says the percent positive rate by week raised significantly as a spike in positives occurred in the county, but has since dropped. For the week of July 5 through 11, 12.79 percent of tested individuals received positive results. The week of June 28 saw a rate of 13.8 percent positive and the week prior was over 18 percent.

Gibbs says she is still awaiting more details on the governor’s announcement that schools won’t open until after Labor Day, but is hopeful that children and K-State students can return to their campuses.

“We cannot let our guard down,” says Gibbs. “We need to continue on with the safety methods we know are proven to work — that is social distancing, wearing a mask, practicing good hand hygiene, staying home when you’re sick and avoiding large crowds.”

Gibbs does note that moving the semester into September could also be a positive, giving schools and teachers more time to plan for the return or make contingencies if that is not possible.

Gibbs provided no new details on the planned new local health order to replace Order No. 14, expiring Sunday. She says the exact provisions will be dependent on percent positive rates, overall case numbers and the severity of cases as well as hospital and out-patient medical care capacity. Attention will also be paid to regional neighbors as Gibbs notes many commute between Pottawatomie, Geary and Riley Counties for work.

Officials did not provide updated numbers related to active outbreak areas in Aggieville, which has had outbreaks identified at two different bars. The Leonardville Nursing Home outbreak has been declared over after 28 days without a new positive test and every positive individual having recovered, though Adams noted they ‘are not quite there’ yet for Aggieville but numbers are slowing in a trend he says looks positive.

Adams also says EMS employees who tested positive are faring well, none of whom are experiencing severe symptoms. No new employees tested positive after the first 6 came back positive. He also gave an update on the first patient 9 and under to come back positive, saying they are also not experiencing severe symptoms while avoiding giving further identifying information.

Live updates will now only air on Wednesdays — daily text updates online will continue.

Those with COVID-19 symptoms are can call the screening line Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Questions can also be directed to Rileycountycovid19@gmail.com. Learn more about symptoms at CDC.gov.

Konza United Way is handling mask donations for Riley County. Collections and distributions take place Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 3 p.m. or by appointment. Contact them at konzaunitedway.org.

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